Cleveland Cavaliers 109
Indiana Pacers 108
It was all a flashback for Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan, his team down by one score with the ball in their hands, but failing to execute at the game’s most crucial point. Down one with just 20 seconds remaining, the Pacers were given two looks to finish up the game, but it was Cleveland Cavaliers defense—you read that right—that won the game as the horns blew and the backboards glowed red.
On three consecutive trips down the floor, the Cavs denied Pacers forward Paul George the ball, forcing his teammates to make a play. They didn’t. First, it was Tristan Thompson denying George any impact on an inbound play, something the Cavs and Ty Lue had schemed against in practice leading into the Game 1 contest. In that 20-second stint, however, it was a timely Richard Jefferson foul that forced the Pacers to reset with 10.6 left. The subsequent play resulted in George being trapped 35 feet from the rim, leaving him on an island with all of his teammates positioned at tough angles for a pass.
As the time ticked down, the ball found its way to former Cavalier guard C.J. Miles who simply had too little time to set himself for a good look at the basket, his 14-foot attempt clanging off the iron and back to Earth as the clock showed triple zeroes.
The play was drawn up so that when the trap came, tweener wing Lance Stephenson was supposed to cut to the nail in the middle of the floor and deliver a pass back for the final shot. Stephenson didn’t cut to the intended spot which would have made it more difficult to pass back. George opted for Miles, hoping for a surrogate role in the same play. It didn’t happen.
“We just didn’t flash high enough,” said McMillan postgame. “We plan for teams double-teaming Paul [George], but we just didn’t execute.”
For all of his heroics throughout the season, George was not only surprised the Cavs trapped him so early, but he was more surprised that he never saw the ball again in the game’s final seconds.
“I talked to C.J. [Miles] following the game,” George said. “In situations like that, I have to take the last shot.”
Paul George: "I talked to CJ about it… In situations like that, I have to take the last shot."
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) April 15, 2017
For LeBron James, however, hypotenticals are not in his wheelhouse.
“You can’t think about sports that way… What if I didn’t block that shot in The Finals? What if there wasn’t a rain delay in the World Series…”
The play was clearly drawn up to get the ball out of George’s hands. What if Miles had hit that shot?
“Every time I’m doubled, I try to make the pass, ” said James. “We all know math in here. If I’m doubled, it’s four on three. I think [Paul] made the right play. You have to live with the results.”
2 — The number of huge, timely steals by Kyrie Irving in the game’s final minutes. Irving, who finished with 23 points a six assists didn’t have the most efficient game (11-of-27 from the floor), but when his team needed him the most, and the Quicken Loans Arena fans were belting “DE-FENSE” from the top of their lungs, he delivered. When asked about the fourth quarter, however, all Irving would discuss was his missed layup with 44 seconds remaining. “That would’ve given us a bigger cushion,” he said. “I’ll be thinking about that one for a while.”
5-of-13 — Kyrie Irving’s shooting tally on uncontested field goals. On the season, Kyrie shot 48.1 percent on attempts where a defender was not within six feet. Expect this to normalize.
2:33 — The number of minutes left in the first quarter when LeBron James attempted his first field goal. Five game minutes later and The King had 10. Fast forward to the end of the game and he finished with 32 on 12-of-20 shooting, adding six rebounds, 13 assists and three steals. Switches flipped and such.
10 — The number of points Kevin Love had in the first quarter, seemingly taking over for what LeBron would have done. While he only finished with 17 points and four rebounds, Love was instrumental in the Cavs having a five-point lead after a quarter where all James had to do was facilitate and rebound. Had he hit a couple more key free throws throughout the rest of the game, Love would’ve had 20.
51.9 — Speaking of free throws… The Cavs were 14-of-27. They had a higher conversion rate from the floor (53.8) than they did at the line. The Pacers, meanwhile, shot 85 percent from the line. If the Cavs shrink this disparity, the entire narrative of this game changes. (It’s worth noting that Irving only got to the line once in this one and is easily the team’s best volume-based free throw shooter.)
0 — Minutes for Iman Shumpert. Ty Lue mentioned this being a part of game flow, but as the Cavs rotation tightens up throughout the playoffs, it’s tough to see him taking minutes from Richard Jefferson, Kyle Korver or Deron Williams. For what it’s worth, Dahntay hones, James Jones and Derrick Williams were also DNP-CD.
2.6 — The number of miles run by LeBron James throughout the course of the game1 This was the highest mark among all players and should immediately be your reply when someone questions why he didn’t guard Paul George for the majority of the contest. Also: He’s 32.
2 — The number of days the Cavs have to rest before Game 2. On at least two days rest through the regular season, the Cavs were 13-5.
- according to NBA.com. [↩]